April 10, 2015

heritage revitalization

Restoring our historic buildings turns them into a community asset

Heritage revitalization celebrates the evolution of the city’s built form. When heritage buildings are preserved and enhanced, it creates public awareness of how a city has transformed.

A Vancouver Heritage Foundation public survey noted that 96 per cent of Vancouverites feel that heritage buildings contribute to a “sense of place.” Whether in Gastown’s Maple Tree Square where the statue of Gassy Jack stands or in New Westminster’s historic downtown, heritage preservation creates connections to communities.

In the Brewery Creek area of the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, Amacon’s District project involved the rehabilitation of the Vancouver Brewery Garage.

Built in 1913, the industrial building is one of the city’s last remaining of the Mission Revival style. Formerly a storage warehouse for B.C. Breweries and later an autobody repair shop, the building is now fully restored and features a local brewery and converted artist studios. The building helped inspire the residential component of the project, consisting of two mid-rise condominium towers and 233 homes, incorporating the industrial tannery/brewery past of the Brewery Creek neighbourhood, and the creative nature of the Mount Pleasant community.

Featured at the foot of Crosstown’s “Heritage Row” is Reliance Properties’ commercial redevelopment at 564 Beatty Street. The building is considered Vancouver’s most dramatic heritage restoration. First built in 1909, the restored six-storey brick and beam heritage structure transforms into a 10-storey LEED Gold certified mid-rise building, as a result of the “jewel box” addition of four modern storeys of concrete and glass. The revitalized building, a union of past and present, adds more than 22,000 square feet of commercial space to the area, as well as a new restaurant and patio that enlivens the once underutilized Beatty Street SkyTrain plaza.

Successful revitalization 
projects help shape 
long-standing connections 
to communities

Meanwhile in New Westminster, a heritage façade restoration of the landmark Trapp and Holbrook blocks is under way as part of The Salient Group’s new mixed-use development. Skilled tradesmen are restoring the terracotta frontage of the Trapp Block, the tallest tower on Columbia Street during the Edwardian era.

Its heritage façade will be revitalized to its 1913 splendour, as will the façade of its neighbour, the 1880s Holbrook building, a former hotel and saloon. Along with a ground floor retail component and 196 homes, the project will bring new growth and excitement to the historic downtown of Western Canada’s first city.

These projects represent a small cross-section of the many successful revitalization projects that help shape long-standing connections to communities.

Anne McMullin is president and CEO of the Urban Development Institute.

As a partner in community building, the Urban Development Institute is committed to working with communities and governments to create and achieve the vision of balanced, well-planned and sustainable communities.

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